A few words from Edouard Moueix, general director of Château Bélair-Monange, on the 2019 vintage.
The 2019 growing season was incredibly dry and hot. How did you cope with the drought and heat spikes and other climatic pressures during the growing season?
We indeed began to feel hydric stress on the gravel plateau of Pomerol in mid-July, but thankfully we received 36mm of rain on 26 July that quenched the vines and set off a quick and even véraison.
In Saint-Émilion we were spared from the hydric stress because our vineyards, Bélair-Monange and Clos La Madeleine, are located on the limestone plateau, which is a wonderful natural hydric regulator.
How would you define the 2019 growing season in a few words?
The main elements of 2019 are the rain during flowering reduced yields in Pomerol, the hot sunny weather over the summer resulted in a nice concentration and a few welcome showers end of July and early August helped the vegetative cycle to avoid blockage, allowing a lovely global overall maturity.
Were there any events this season that were of particular note?
Budburst was relatively early, as is becoming very frequent of late. Luckily, we narrowly escaped the frost on 13 April and the vines were able to enter the growing season in earnest unscathed.
Based on the specific climatic conditions of 2019 did you have to modify any of the winemaking?
The weather was still quite hot during harvest, so we harvested only in the morning in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit. We favour the extraction at the beginning of the fermentation to maximise the presence of the round tannins of the skin.
Tannins play such a vital and defining role in the quality of Bordeaux red wines. How did you manage tannin extraction in 2019 – was this normal or modified based on the vintage?
Every vintage is different, we must therefore adapt to the characteristic of the phenolic balance on a given year. In 2019 the quality of the tannins is exceptional because they are fully ripe. The trick was not to extract too much in order to maintain the balance with the pH and the acidity.
Can you tell us about the specific blend you used for the 2019 vintage?
Our wines being highly dominated by Merlot, the blend for us is more about the different age of vines, clones and type of soil. This year the older vines have brought a crucial depth as the younger vines were bringing softness but a little superficial.
How did you work up to final blend – intuitively, by tasting, etc? Can you share your process this year?
Blending is an ongoing tasting process of the berries, the must, the young wine and finally each lot. There is very little room to intuition as the understanding of the characteristic of the growing season for each portion of block is crucial. We must be able to project each lot in the future. The more knowledge the better!
What do you feel has had the biggest effect on the final taste profile of the 2019 vintage?
Smaller volume and sun means a very complex fruit palette!
How does 2019 compare to other vintages?
For our vineyards it reminds me of the 2005, a vintage built around ripe tannins with flesh, depth, notes of liquorice and dark fruit and a beautiful tension.
Do you have a special memory attached to this vintage?
We always remember each vintage according to the theme party during the harvest. In 2019 it was ‘Nomads’. We all dressed up and had two camels welcoming every harvester at our refectory in the middle of the Pomerol plateau. Plus this year we celebrated the 50th harvest of my father.
The entire industry was saddened by the postponement of En Primeur Week, such a key event in the fine wine calendar. What does the event mean to you and the Château?
The presentation of the wines at such an early stage is in my mind a mark of great honesty and transparency. We all know these tastings are challenging as the extremely young wines change from one day to another, opening and closing according to the weather mainly. But being able to have the reaction of most of our customers and consumers right away, is very humbling and enriching.
Read the full report: Bordeaux 2019 A Vintage Preview